COD4: Modern Warfare
Whatever you think of COD’s current state, theres no denying that Modern Warfare was a watershed moment for games. Not only did it revive the tired FPS genre, and transform Call of Duty from ok shooter into OMG shooter, it set a benchmark for multiplayer gaming and provided an incredible, 8 hour rollercoaster of a story that few have matched since. The ghillie suit stage, the opening scenes on the tanker, that ending – Modern Warfare is stuffed full of memorable moments.
And guess what: it has aged really well. While subsequent Call of Duty games have attempted to build on Modern Warfare, making the action ever more bombastic, this stands as an exercise in stripped back, streamlined entertainment. There’s no fluff here, just 8 hours of smooth FPS action that still outclasses all its imitators.
Old Snake may have a creaky back and snarl even more than he used to, but he’s still got it where it counts. MGS4 is still a technical showcase for PS4, just as MGS2 was for PS2 before it. But, crucially, it uses the advancements in technology to better its gameplay. The camouflage suit, in particular, is not only fun to use but useful in the tense stealth situations you find yourself in.
You could criticise Kojima and his team for making the storyline too complex and movie-like (especially in terms of the length of its cut-scenes), but the cast of characters and bosses are all memorable, and there’s no denying the drama at the game’s conclusion. However, had one scene in particular ended the other way, this would likely be even higher up this list. Still essential gaming if you own a PS3.
The Resistance series went from decent launch game to disappointing sequel to FPS masterpiece over the course of the PS3’s lifespan. Its a shame then, that Resistance 3 – the FPS masterpiece from the first sentence – signaled the end of the series. There’s something so utterly right about R3. It’s the way the alternate-reality ’50s setting combines with the mad, yet satisfying, alien weaponry, and mixes in with the heart-warming story of a father protecting his family that makes this game a stand-out.
Each stage is well pitched too – there are few, if any, weak moments – and the combat is slicker than a gull plucked from the gulf of Mexico. Every time you think you’ve got it nailed, the story throws another situation or problem at you, forcing you to adapt and explore the game’s versatility even further. Which you’ll gladly do to bring Joe Capelli’s sad, hopeful tale to its thrilling conclusion.
You’d be forgiven for overlooking Tokyo Jungle; the game looks like a B-grade title, with blurry textures and blocky models throughout. But you don’t play Tokyo Jungle for the graphics – you play it so you can control a pack of beagles taking on a lion. You play it to dress a giraffe in silly hats. You play it because Tokyo Jungle is an addictive roguelike, constantly offering new surprises and challenging you to perfect your routes through an abandoned city as you hunt for food and mates to keep your species alive. Its simple gameplay and plethora of unlockable animals means you’ll get the hang of things quickly, but constantly be striving to get that next piece of the puzzle.
Batman: Arkham City
How do you make the best superhero game of all time better? You add a whole lot more of it, and drop all of that into one of the best-realised open-world cities ever seen in a game. Smartly choosing fidelity, personality and meaningful design over sheer scale for scale’s sake, Rocksteady’s quarantined chunk of Gotham is one of the most striking, affecting and most entirely purposeful environments seen in an entire generation. Letting the empowering yet perfectly balanced mechanics of the first game really fly, literally and figuratively, Arkham Citys structure is an equally grand victory in both gameplay and aesthetic terms.
But just as importantly, it never dominates or detracts from what made Arkham Asylum great. The same mix of intelligent, creative sandbox stealth and taxing, thrilling, almost musical combat still underpins everything, and is even better than it ever was before. That Arkham City also plays host to a Batman story dark, dramatic and entirely epic enough to stand up in any medium is just the icing on the utility cake.